Young Australians Will Abandon Facebook If It Doesn’t Do More To Combat Hate Speech

Bangkok Thailand - August 31 2017 Facebook App on iPhone with computer laptop background closeup male hand hold social network on smart device concept.

In this guest post, founders of The Daily Aus Sam Koslowski and Zara Seidler discuss why in order to stay in the game and keep its user, social media giant Facebook needs to do more to combat hate speech…

For young Australians, Facebook is on the decline.

Unless the platform better responds to its user’s values, and recognises its social responsibility towards combating misinformation, the platform’s latest controversy might just turn users away altogether.

We’ve seen American companies take historic action – but we haven’t seen the same reaction in the Australian market.

The American movement Stop Hate for Profit, which has successfully encouraged brands like Patagonia, Coca Cola, Adidas and Unilever to pull their spend off the platform in recent days, shows that in the boycott era it’s not enough to just be a bystander.

Facebook’s 8 percent share price drop in the U.S. on Friday (worth $72 billion) is the latest marker in the public’s increasingly negative attitude towards the platform’s blasè approach to hate speech and politics.

Young Australians are no longer willing to accept and support brands that remain silent on political issues – we know that already. What we’re learning now is that social media is the new frontline for that behaviour shift.

For young Australians, social media platforms are no longer a flow of trustworthy content from their friends. They probably never really were. Young Australians see the platforms – even new players like TikTok –  as places to go to engage in political debate, and to read the news. We know from the University of Canberra’s latest Digital News Report that half of Gen Z’s in Australia get their news from Facebook.

Traditionally, when a political article was embedded in a flow of personalised content from a true social network of friends and family, the reader’s guard was down. Now, that political content fills their feeds, and young people are on high alert.

When we asked our 20,000-person Instagram audience – 84% of whom are under 34 – what they thought of Facebook’s handling of hate speech, 89 percent supported the move by companies to slash their ad spends on Facebook until the platform cracks down on hate speech. More than nine in 10 respondents said the social media giant needed to do more to moderate hate speech.

For us, that signals a big shift – young people​​ are acutely aware ​of the social responsibility that not just companies have, but specifically social media platforms have.

To be fair to Facebook, they’ve responded to the campaign by acknowledging that they have more work to do, and cited investments in artificial intelligence as a way for them to improve their ability to find and remove hate speech before it is reported by users. But it’s too easy for brands to acknowledge they have more work to do, and hope the issue goes away. At the pace at which social discourse is developing, deflection is no longer enough.

There’s a larger conversation to have here – if we know that young people are getting their news from social media, we need to make sure they have access to news they can trust. Only nine percent of our users said they trust the information they find on Facebook.

We wouldn’t accept that level of trust in a newspaper bought from a convenience store, so we shouldn’t accept this alarmingly low level of trust in the main way that young Australians get their news. The passive role of the platforms must change – the status quo cannot be tolerated.

As well as brands pulling revenue from the platform, Facebook also needs to throw their support behind independent, quality news on their platform.

We must assume that some of the bigotry we see in the comments sections is written by Australians who are genuinely misinformed, and as such, need to be served with the right information. That seems like a pretty good place to start.

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